Burnley FC battle for Austin

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BURNLEY were yesterday locked in a battle with a number clubs for the services of in-demand Swindon Town striker Charlie Austin.

With the transfer window set to close at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, the Clarets are believed to have held discussions with Town over the 21-year-old forward – although I understand, at the time of writing, there had been no formal offer.

Burnley had, according to sources close to the Wiltshire club – along with Premier League neighbours Blackpool and League 1 Southampton – tabled a seven-figure bid for Austin (right), while an unnamed Championship club is also interested, believed to be Ipswich Town.

Austin, who netted 20 goals last season as the Robins made the League 1 play-off final, has 17 this time around, despite suffering a shoulder injury in September.

And he is known to new Clarets boss Eddie Howe from his time at Poole Town, non-league neighbours of Bournemouth, with Howe keen to sign the frontman while at Dean Court, only to be thwarted by a transfer embargo.

Championship sides Millwall and Hull have previously had offers turned down by Swindon for a player they value at £2m, and Town director Jeremy Wray was expecting the drawn out saga to be sorted out one way or another last night.

He said late on Wednesday evening: “It could come to a conclusion in the next 24 hours.

“We will hold out for the best bid for Swindon Town and Charlie Austin.”

Austin was, on Tuesday night, watched by Saints boss Nigel Adkins and Derby County’s Nigel Clough as he missed a penalty in a goalless draw at the County Ground with Tranmere Rovers.

Howe had said on Tuesday after the 2-1 win at Portsmouth, when asked if he was looking at strengthening his squad:

“It’s something we’re looking at.

“I said when I came in I didn’t want to make snap decisions and bring players in if we didn’t need them.

“We’ve assessed the squad, we’re happy with it.

“There may be a couple of areas we need to tweak, but nothing’s been decided yet and nothing’s been finalised.

“It’s something we’re working on.

“I’m very happy with the squad, I think every manager in the country would say they’d like to strengthen as much as they could, so there may be a couple of areas.”

Howe made only one change at Fratton Park from his first team selection in his first game in charge at Scunthorpe, bringing in Steven Thompson for Ross Wallace.

And he feels there is real competition for places already within the squad, with Martin Paterson in contention to return from a niggling thigh injury in the FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Burton Albion tomorrow, and Chris McCann also making good progress:

“It’s difficult to pick a definite XI at the moment and it’s difficult to pick a bench because all the lads have impressed.

“I know there are a couple of disappointed players there because everyone wants to play, but everyone will get an opportunity because we do still have a number of games coming up, so we need that competition.”

And he has already been struck by the bond between the players since his and assistant Jason Tindall’s arrival last Monday.

He said: “It’s important. If you want to be successful you have to have a good team spirit.

“The lads have to fight for each other and support each other on and off the pitch.

“We have come into a team where we knew a couple of the lads, but not many, and they’ve made us feel very welcome and they have been a credit to themselves, how they’ve conducted themselves and how they’ve played.”